by Lionel Birnie
In 1977, Elton John was poised to appoint England’s 1966 World Cup-winning captain Bobby Moore as manager of Watford. That was until Don Revie recommended a young man who had led Lincoln City to the Fourth Division title and a record points total.
However, there was a snag. West Bromwich Albion, in the First Division, had already offered Taylor a job.
But Taylor met the rock star at his home in Windsor and the pair were impressed by each other’s ambition. Elton wanted to take the club he had supported as a boy from the bottom division all the way to the top. He had his sights set on bringing European football to Vicarage Road. Taylor was equally driven but, when asked by Elton how much he thought it would cost, thought he would scare the chairman by saying: ‘You won’t get much change out of one million pounds.’
‘Right,’ said Elton. ‘We’ll give it a go.’
They drew up a ten-year plan to reach the First Division. They did it in five.
Enjoy the Game tells the story of promotions and cup upsets. Lionel Birnie spent two years interviewing the players, management and directors who helped make it happen. From Graham Taylor to Luther Blissett, Wilf Rostron to John Barnes, Nigel Callaghan to Tony Coton – let the people who were there tell you the behind-the-scenes story of an incredible decade.
During the late 1970s and 1980s, English football was in the doldrums. Tumbledown grounds with crumbling terraces and fences were too often the battleground for hooligans. Watford bucked that trend and became the family club, involving the community and young fans in the success.
And what success it was – successive promotions took the Hornets from the Fourth Division to the Second Division, where they paused for breath before pushing on to win a place in the top flight for the first time in 1982. A year later, Watford were runners-up to Liverpool. They played in Europe and reached the FA Cup final at Wembley.
It was an astonishing period when dreams kept coming true. We thought it could last for ever.
Enjoy the Game by Lionel Birnie Published in 2010 | Hardback | 352 pages | RRP £18.99
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It’s a very, very good book – Graham Taylor